New classroom’s coffeehouse vibe sparks creative expression

by Matthew Lindholm ‘18

Workers with drywall saws and paint rollers were a common scene at Saint Ignatius High School this summer. Plant Services decided to take on many renovations, including the college counseling office, senior lounge, Mr. Steward’s art studio, and Mr. Jarc and Mrs. Stire’s classroom.

The renovation that will most impact students occurred in Mr. Jarc and Mrs. Stire’s room, where the school invested $25,000 into the creation of a modern and unique learning space. The concept was a joint effort between the two teachers, who took into account the new Fine Arts curriculum changes. As of the 2015-2016 school year, sophomores now take a class which combines computer literacy and oral interpretation into one subject. While the class is still called Computer Literacy/Applications, it is less focused on SAM Microsoft training and memorizing speeches. Instead, it is the perfect mix between computer concepts, creativity, and presentation. In the class, the students are given problem based projects to solve over a period of time. In the process, they will use creative thinking to inspire an idea, learn the technological skills to complete the task, and then use rhetorical speech elements to present their solution in an appealing and professional manner. The class has been designed around collaborative, self-taught learning with teacher direction. In this layout, the students can be a part of hands-on work every day.

The newly renovated classroom fits this new style of teaching exceptionally well. Gone are the days where a technology literacy student enters into a sea of dull blue and gray tones, with what seems to be endless rows of monitors. Now, students walk into a vibrant space, expressed through the green, blue, and orange paint; wood laminate floor; and open concept layout. As stated before, the room was designed to spark creativity, productivity, and mastery. Every detail has been considered with this goal in mind. Throughout the room there are Big Joe bean bag chairs. This generates a relaxed environment; a perfect place for the inspiration of ideas. On the left side of the room, there will be 6 productivity tables with stools. These tables, due to their height, require either standing or decent posture on the stool to work on them. As suggested by Mr. Jarc: “tables make students want to work, and be genuinely interested in the task at hand because of the inability to slouch on them.” These tables also allow for students to have plenty of space to get things done, especially when making physical models and prototypes. Lastly, there is a three level stage/seating area on the far right wall of the room. This can be used as a place to sit and do work, or as a place to present final ideas. Mr. Jarc. commented on the space, saying, “As a class, it puts you in charge of a lot of your own learning, and also taking ownership of it. It gives the students a better chance to learn from each other, using Mrs. Stires and I as guides to help you along. If you change the physical space and change the way the class operates, the hope is that the students will take ownership and be physically involved more, compared to your typical lecture style class.”

So far, this unique classroom experience has been a success. Jarred Meyer 18’ praised the concepts, commenting, “I feel like I’m learning, but it feels more natural to me since I am in a comfortable setting.” This is truly something St. Ignatius has never seen before, and may be a trailblazer for class formats in the future.